World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has led the sport’s congratulations to former Kenya Sevens star Humphrey Kayange, who has been elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after he was appointed to the Athletes’ Commission by IOC President Thomas Bach.

Kayange, the chair of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya Athletes' Commission, was formally sworn into his new position at the IOC Session in Tokyo, and becomes the first rugby Olympian to be appointed to the IOC’s decision-making structures.

The 39-year-old, who represented Kenya on the Sevens circuit for more than a decade, was a key member of the bid team that successfully persuaded the IOC to return rugby to the Olympic Games in 2009. He also competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when the discipline debuted and was nominated for World Rugby Sevens player of the year in 2009 and 2013.

Kayange’s candidacy was aimed at giving stronger representation to athletes from smaller or developing nations which experience unique challenges. He also focused on advocacy of equality and fairness in the fight to maintain a level playing field in sport.

“On behalf of the global rugby family, I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Humphrey on his election as an IOC member and appointment to the IOC Athletes’ Commission,” said Beaumont.

“Humphrey represented his nation and sport with distinction on the field for more than a decade, was instrumental in rugby’s return to the Olympics and has championed the views of athletes superbly in a Kenyan, African and rugby context.

“Humphrey’s appointment is great endorsement of rugby. We will give our full support to him in his mission to work for all athletes, including rugby players, within the Olympic movement.”

Beaumont’s sentiments have been echoed by World Rugby Executive Committee member Angela Ruggiero who served as an IOC member, Executive Board member and chair of the Athletes’ Commission.

“I would like to extend my congratulations to Humphrey and wish him all the best in his capacity championing the voice of athletes within the IOC movement, said Ruggiero. “It is an important role with huge responsibility, but also huge potential to further recognise and normalise athlete views, diversity, engagement and expression within the Olympic family.

“At this important time for society and sport, I hope that the Athletes’ Commission continues to understand and act on embracing platforms and technology that promote expression and deepen engagement with purpose-driven fluid fans who hold the keys to the future success of the Olympic Games and sport more broadly.”

Kayange joins a new-look Athlete’s Commission chaired by Emma Terho of Finland, who has joined the IOC Executive Board.

“I would also like to congratulate Emma on her appointment as Chair of the Athletes’ Commission,” said Beaumont.

Spanish basketball legend Pau Gasol, Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini, Japanese fencer Yuki Ota and Polish cyclist Maja Martyna Włoszczowska have also become IOC members after being elected to the Athletes' Commission.

The four replace the outgoing chair Kirsty Coventry, vice-chair Danka Bartekova, France's Tony Estanguet and Australia's James Tomkins, whose terms on the Athletes' Commission have concluded.